The Crying Game

Last week, I posted on the need for honesty when writing about life abroad.

This week, Johanna Castro is guest posting on ISOALLO about one of the hardest parts of living overseas - saying goodbye.

Johanna is a freelance writer living in Western Australia. In her words, she "champions voyages of discovery to dream places and quiet spaces. Helping you to 'Live for the moment, Love adventure and Do something awesome', her travel and lifestyle blog, Zigazag, aims to entertain and inform. You can also find her on Twitter as @johannaAcastro". In this sponsored expat post, here's what she has to say about goodbyes...

The worst thing about deciding to live overseas for good is saying goodbye to family and friends back ‘home’.

It really hurts.

And it doesn’t get any easier as you get older. In fact, I hate to say this but I think it gets worse. For each time you go back on holiday, you begin to develop an attachment problem.

The only way I can describe it is a bit like a phobia of leaving. There’s this feeling that when you leave again, the emotional gap you are about to create will never be filled and what if, Oh Crikey, What If you never get to see these people again?

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons (Kellan)

Expat life

When I first left England at the age of 19 with a backpack and a guitar, bound for a job as a show jumping groom in Belgium, I didn’t really think I’d be setting a precedent that would last for the rest of my life. In fact, the first time I waved goodbye to the White Cliffs of Dover, it was quite easy to leave what I then felt were the suffocating intimacies of home. I couldn’t wait to travel.  I was young and selfish and in search of my destiny, whatever that was.

But later, I became more worldly-wise and found attachment and love, along came children and, well past my due date for settling down, I found that a life of change had become the status quo, hitched as I am to an itinerant geologist who has had the opportunity to work on projects in interesting countries all around the world.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved our nomadic life of new experiences in strange or exciting places but, as you get older, the pure selfishness of youth gets chipped away.

Learning to be tough and resourceful

After having children, I found that I wanted (and needed) to share more about my life, particularly the joys and tribulations of bringing up children, particularly with people who would give a damn - like the Grandies.

Both sets of our parents lived two continents away from us during our child-rearing years, on opposite sides of the world. Not good for babysitting. And not available either as sounding boards of wisdom when the going got tough.

I guess we learnt to be tough and resourceful all on our own. That was the upside to expat life, finding mentors and like-minds amongst our new friends overseas who were in similar circumstances. But they were not ‘family’ and, when the doors closed at night, we were emotionally on our own.

Expats need to be strong minded

You have to be strong of character to be an expat, especially when it comes to saying Goodbye.

“I’m going to see my daughter next month and I’m already dreading the Goodbye,” says my friend April.
For “Goodbye” is the hardest word. The word “Farewell”  denotes a possibility of seeing each other in the near future, but Goodbye feels so final and, because expats are often not too sure when they’ll be back in their homelands again to see their loved ones, its impact can feel almost death-like.

“My heart breaks each time I have to say Goodbye and, for a little while at least, there’s a gaping void which I think can never be filled,” explains my friend, Sarah.

Goodbye is the hardest word

Our loved ones wave us tearfully goodbye, as we jet off on jumbo jets to far-flung climes and distant shores with names they may not be able to pronounce and possibly don’t want to. Our loved ones may not be able to spare the cash to spend on long haul holidays and plans for holidays abroad might extend, at least for my relatives, to short breaks in France but not to Timbuktoo.

Another downside is that a medical system with similar standards in developed countries is far preferable to an emergency ward in, say, a Kathmandu hospital for someone nearing  the age of 70. Yes, I have lived in far flung outposts which have been exciting for us, but terrifying for the Grandies.

“As an expat I’m always saying goodbye. To my friends, to my family and, more recently, to my children as they have grown up and left the family nest,” says Jen.

When will we be back?

But all is not lost. Expats are often able to take the summer migration back home, courtesy of the Company’s generous allowance for the yearly ‘home leave’ – sometimes. Or you may be earning enough in the new world to be able to visit the old country once a year. But after the summer migration and a holiday back ‘home’, the word Goodbye is filled with a big black hole of doubt. Will this be possible again next year?

When will we be back?

“The thought of it tears me up, every time,” another friend said.

For if we are financially able to return back ‘home’ next year, it will probably mean forfeiting a holiday exploring the country or continent we have come to live in.

You can’t have it all. But, still, it is a dilemma.

And you begin to wonder if that kind of dilemma is selfish or acceptable and how do you live with the guilt of it anyway?

I’ve never been able to work that one out.

Following our dreams

Looking down the other end of the telescope from a mother’s perspective, the feelings are no different.

“I cry every time my kids leave,” says my friend Dee, as she waives her now grown-up children off to careers and new homes in the Middle East. “It gets harder each time they go. You do understand the dilemma of wanting them to be happy where they are, but you also want them to be close to home too. What you don’t want though is that they should feel guilty for pursuing their own dreams.”

Ah, yes, dreams. We all have the choice to follow our own dreams but, unlike clouds, very few dreams have totally silver linings.

We have a choice and we need to understand the consequences.

Then we must toss out that gremlin of a word Goodbye and replace it firmly with Farewell – and just get on with it.

What do you think? Do you find it hard to say Goodbye?

This expat post was sponsored by Expat & Offshore, an online consumer resource for those seeking professional information and advice pertaining to matters related to expatriate life and offshore finance, including offshore banking, investments, QROPS, retirement options, and more.

QROPS stands for a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme. Introduced in April 2006, a QROP Scheme is an HMRC-recognised offshore pension scheme that allows non-UK residents to transfer their UK private/corporate pension offshore, tax free. An independent financial adviser can provide advice on pension transfers based on individual specific requirements.

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Lesley Snell said... Add Reply

I have not lived in Uk for at least 20 years and have had all the kids away from family . My Mum now wears a huge pair of sunnies at the airport when we leave or when she leaves us even on a rainy day ( someone once thought she was blind and tried to help her!) It covers her tears .....me I am a little harder I think cos once I'm on the plane I am already thinking about going home ......I think you have to be like that really its a coping mechcanism

Jo Castro at Zigazag said... Add Reply

I agree, Lesley. We do need to have coping mechanisms. Your Mum's coping mechanism of dark glasses made me giggle, especially the bit about being helped out because some one thought she was blind when she was wearing them on a rainy day! My Mum let on to me (many years later) that once she had cried non-stop all the way from Heathrow Airport to Swindon (almost two hours) when I'd flown off back to Nepal with my baby son. I think though that coping is a bit easier for the one that's doing the leaving rather than the one that's being left.

Life Images by Jill said... Add Reply

fabulous post Jo. It really gave me an insight into the world of the expat. The furthest we ever lived from our families was Perth to Bunbury - far enough away to get on with our own lives, but close enough if we needed the comfort of family. But my sister's eldest son lived in the UK for 3 years. She said the first time saying goodbye was hard, the second time he came back and left again she felt like her "heart was being wrenched out of her chest". So I think yes, it may be easier for the one leaving as they go on to their next adventure, and hardest for the ones left behind not knowing when they will see them again. Thanks Jo.

Adventures said... Add Reply

No doubt about it, Johanna, you've nailed it. I find leaving family and close friends behind (often strewn around the globe), the most difficult part about living abroad. We only go around once in life, and we all deserve to find our own path. I really do believe in the Dr. Suess approach: 'Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.' That means making the effort to stay in touch in whatever ways you/they can, including saving $/time to visit as possible.

Annabel, Get In The Hot Spot said... Add Reply

I know a lot of people don't move overseas or go anywhere because they don't want to leave friends behind. But guess what? They will still be there when you get home though often you might find you have both moved on other times the friendship is as strong as ever despite the separation.

Jo Castro at Zigazag said... Add Reply

So true Annabel. Good friendships do weather the course of time and distance. Thanks for commenting :)

Jo Castro at Zigazag said... Add Reply

Finding our own path is a must and I love Dr Suess's approach - I hadn't heard that quote before :)

Jo Castro at Zigazag said... Add Reply

I can totally relate to how your sister felt, Jill. But I think the distance between Perth and Bunbury is just about right!

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

I remember a friend once told me how brave I was for moving overseas. She said she could never leave her family and friends behind like I did, even though she was utterly bored and wanted so much more from her life. It's such a misconception that exploring the world = giving up loved ones.

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Me neither. Have popped that into my back pocket to use another time. Thanks Linda!

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Given we're about to welcome our first into the world, you have me already thinking about the future - two parents from opposite sides of the globe and a child that will no doubt want to experience both. Emotional times ahead :)

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Agree with you there, Jo. I think it must be easier for the ones doing the leaving.

Emma Caroline Lewis said... Add Reply

It is without a doubt the hardest thing. I remember sobbing uncontrollably on one flight all the way from London back to Jamaica (a nine hour flight)... I just missed my parents so badly. And when my mother came to visit us here, saying goodbye to her at the airport was such a rush (we were late) and little did I know that I would never see her again. It is VERY painful. No getting away from it. You have to be strong (and you ARE strong) but there is a feeling of guilt. We are now going through it all over again as we may be relocating and leaving my mother-in-law behind....

Jo Castro at Zigazag said... Add Reply

I so agree. You don't give them up and you must live your own life , just doesn't make goodbye any easier knowing that though :(

Jo Castro at Zigazag said... Add Reply

That's very sad Emma. Sometimes you just have to hang on the fact that we each havr our own path to follow and only one chance, and just keep strong

Jo Castro at Zigazag said... Add Reply

Let's hope that teletransportation is around by then Russell!

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Guilt at being away is a whole can of worms in itself. Have a look at this older post I wrote about facing my fears, Emma - http://www.insearchofalifelessordinary.com/2011/10/facing-my-fears.html

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Tis true...

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Lol ;-)

yTravelBlog said... Add Reply

Oh I understand this so much! I have gotten so used to saying goodbye, except I refuse to use that word. I always say see you later! And I like to make them quick.

I remember the day Craig and I left three days after our wedding, I cried from Sydney to Bangkok, because I was leaving my 2 and 1 year old nephew behind. I was so devastated. That was the hardest goodbye for me.

But, I would never let the pain of goodbye stop me from travelling and I would hate to think that others would not pursue their dreams because they did not want to leave me. I will be pushing my daughters when the time comes for them to leave even though my heart will be breaking.

Jo Castro at Zigazag said... Add Reply

Making Goodbye quick and saying 'see you later' is a great ploy Caz. I do agree about pushing the kids from the nest and not making them feel guilty about leaving wherever they choose to wander.

Kathleen M Smith said... Add Reply

Ah, am saying goodbye again....which ever side of the pond I'm on, there is family left behind on the other side. My son once asked, "can't we all just find a place halfway- the Bahamas?" We're on the plane again on Monday. Thanks for blog.

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Great advice. 'See you later' is my new goodbye phrase! Thanks Caz :)

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Funny that the Caribbean or Hawaii always seem like halfway places for us too. I can think of worse places ;-)

Simone said... Add Reply

Another great article Jo - 'Goodbye' and all that it creates; something we have all experienced; described so well. Thanks

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Thanks for stopping by, Simone.

Jo Castro at Zigazag said... Add Reply

Thanks Simone! Glad you related to the sentiments :)

Jo Castro at Zigazag said... Add Reply

Feel for you Kathleen. I know the children do feel it as well. My daughter once asked if we couldn't just buy a big ranch, and the whole extended family live together aka Dallas (the TV series). In reality the sentiment didn't sit well. Perish the thought, I said!

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